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Interim President Bernstein Issues Update on Fall Semester Planning

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Interim President Michael A. Bernstein has issued a message to colleagues concerning academic plans for the fall semester. The message reads as follows:

Coronavirus UpdateFirst, I want to thank you for all your hard work. This semester has been perhaps the most difficult any of us has ever experienced, and I am deeply grateful for all you have done to support our students. You have gone above and beyond in continuing to carry out our academic and research missions, all while dealing with myriad challenges, including personal health concerns, child care and family care issues, financial burdens, and high levels of daily stress and anxiety.

As we look toward the fall semester, we are faced with significant uncertainty about our academic calendar and the modalities of course delivery. We are not alone in this position — every other US university or college is attempting to make the right decisions, given the particularities of place and community. While we do not yet have all the information needed to make these decisions, we are considering all options that will help us to preserve the integrity of our academic programs and of our research, scholarship, and art-making mission — all while protecting the safety of our students, staff, and faculty. Rest assured we will make the most data-driven and careful decisions possible, in as timely a manner as possible.

In the meantime, I reach out to you with a request. Recognizing that we will not be able to formalize decisions about fall semester until later in June, I ask you to consider creating an alternative syllabus for your courses that would enable you to teach online, if necessary. Please be mindful that we may need to teach some courses entirely online, and we may also need to adapt many courses to short periods of online instruction if there are COVID-19 and/or flu outbreaks on our campus during the fall semester.

Many of you have already been advised by your Deans to begin scenario planning for fall. I emphasize that we hope to not need to use these syllabi. And yet, we want to be sure that the work of mounting an online course is, if needed, available to you and your Deans, as soon as possible. All these steps will assure an uninterrupted, high quality educational experience for our students.

Our colleagues at The Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) are prepared to support your efforts. If you would benefit from their assistance, please consider signing up for one of the many courses they offer or take advantage of their self-help resources. You may learn more here. The CELT leadership and staff have been remarkably forthcoming in their commitment to supporting you, and I encourage you to reach out to them, especially if your course(s) might be improved with the input of online learning experts.

As classes come to an end, I encourage you to take the time to rest, and to take care of yourselves. The resources listed below offer some support as we all attempt to do what’s best for our families, our students, our communities, and our state.

I can never thank you enough for your dedication, commitment, and courage. I wish you and your loved ones safety and health!

Employee Assistance Program (EAP): The EAP offers assistance with work and personal problems: https://www.stonybrook.edu/commcms/eap/

Specific resources for coronavirus information and support can be found here:
https://www.stonybrook.edu/commcms/eap/news/coronavirus.html

This includes free emotional support through the NYC COVID Worker Care Network, open to any essential worker in New York. This is a mutual aid network of more than 1,000 mental health workers, spiritual care providers, and community builders. The group facilitates individual support, support groups, and stress-reduction training. Sign-up through the website at www.nyccovidcare.org/request.  Follow the Network at https://www.facebook.com/NYCCOVIDCare/ for updates or @nyccovidcare on Instagram + Twitter. Reach out to nyccovidcare@gmail.com with any questions.

Association for Mental Health and Wellness (MHAW) is open for calls M-F, 9 am – 5 pm at 631-471-7242, ext. 2, or via email at helpline@mhaw.org. MHAW has also expanded the hours for its Peer Support Line and online Peer Support Groups. Additional COVID-19-related resources can be found on the Mental Health Helpline web page.

NYS COVID-19 Emotional Support Hotline at 1-844-863-9314 provides free and confidential support and is staffed by volunteers, including mental health professionals, who have received training in crisis counseling.

NYSHIP and the Empire Plan’s Resources for “Coronavirus and Your Mental Health” 
https://www.achievesolutions.net/achievesolutions/en/empireplan/Topic.do?centerId=42&topicId=108

For immediate crisis counseling, an option is to call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration’s Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990, a 24/7, 365 days a year, national hotline that is tool-free, multilingual, and confidential.

HR Hotline
We remind faculty and staff that HR has set up a phone line, 631-632-5000, if you have workplace questions such as concerns about being in the workplace, procedures to follow if you believe you have been exposed, preventative or mandated quarantine, assignment of alternate work locations and duties, and use of accruals and leaves. Additional information may be found here: https://news.stonybrook.edu/university/university-announces-covid-19-telephone-information-line-for-employees/.

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